Narratives of Tampering in the Earliest Commentaries on the Qur’ān
The Muslim accusation of the corruption or deliberate falsification of pre-Qur'ānic scriptures has been a major component of interfaith polemic for a millenium or more. The accusation has frequently sought attestation from a series of "tampering" verses in the Qur'ān. Investigation of the interpretation of these verses in the earliest commentaries on the Qur'ān, however, reveals a discrepancy between the confident polemical accusation and the tentative understandings of the first Muslims. Of greater interest to early commentators was a story of deception and obstinacy by the "People of the Book" in response to the truth claims of Islam. Focusing on the eighth-century commentary of Muqātil ibn Sulaymān and the great exegetical compendium of al-Ṭabarī (d. 923), this book sketches the outlines of the earliest Muslim approach to pre-Qur'ānic scriptures. The resulting discoveries provide a rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain of doctrinaire claim and polemical debate.